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A look at third-party custody rights in Maryland

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Here in Maryland, family law issues aren't always easy to sort out without legal representation. That's because our state's laws have been in existence for many, many years; and over the course of that time, statutes have been added, subtracted or amended, making our laws more complex and difficult to understand without the right legal background.

For many people in Maryland, the complexity of our laws leaves a lot of unanswered questions. In today's post, we'd like to look at how our state handles third-party custody, particularly whether grandparents or relatives have any rights, hopefully giving some of our Gaithersburg readers the information they need to take the next step and talk to an attorney.

Let's begin with the fact that all parents in Maryland have a presumptive right to custody of their children. This means that during custody disputes, judges will typically rule in favor of parents over third parties, such as grandparents or other relatives. You should know, however, that this isn't always the case in every situation.

If a third party petitions a Maryland family law judge for custody, the third party must show reasons for the change in custody. One way is to show that the child's parents are unfit and that maintaining the existing custody arrangement is not in the child's best interests or that there are exceptional circumstances. If a strong enough argument is presented, the judge may grant the third party custody of the child or, at the very least, grant visitation rights.

Just like our state laws, the process of petitioning the courts can be equally complex, which is why talking to a lawyer is considered a good idea. After obtaining legal representation and discussing the rights afforded by the law, families can make more informed decisions about how best to proceed with their custody issue.

Source: The People's Law Library of Maryland, "Child Custody in Maryland," Accessed Sept. 22, 2015

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